Every so often a player comes along and shakes up the game. Such is the case with Tahoe, the Missouri-based fibreglass sportboat builder owned by industry giant Tracker Marine.
Benefiting from years of experience, veteran skills and Tracker's marketing savvy, Tahoe is growing like waves in the wind.
Last year we tested Tahoe's 21-foot Q7, the company's runabout flagship. This year we were introduced to the Q4 Sport, a 19'5" model that sells for a very good price. I actually had to ask the sales manager to recalculate, but he came up with the same number - $23,400.
I was immediately impressed by the fit and finish of the Q4.The mould and subsequent gelcoat work was excellent, and upon closer inspection of details like wiring, upholstery work and joints, I was taken by how much time Tahoe must spend on getting things right.
The Q4 Sport's bold and bright colour scheme really sets it off, and though some of the free-flowing stripes along the side are tape, the wide areas are done in gel.
I'm drawn to the technology behind the hull. Tahoe's bottom is interesting, utilizing shallow shingle steps on the chine and strakes.They call it their HydroStep design, meant to reduce drag, turn better and accelerate faster.
Inside, the Q4 Sport is uncomplicated and makes the most out of its cockpit space.There are two comfortable flip-up bolsters, a full-beam aft bench seat and a well-proportioned bow seating area. The helm is nicely moulded with a separate tier where the beverage holder is placed. Ditto for the passenger side, where a multi-level console accommodates two beverage holders,a stereo/CD player,small items tray and a cooler/storage unit.
Storage space is abundant, with compartments located under the bow seat cushions, four-person aft bench and the in-floor wakeboard/ski locker. Open side storage is also a good location for lay ropes and miscellaneous gear.
The swim/activity platform is very large. Integral to the hull, I particularly liked the way it was formed to extend over the engine drive.While the foldup ladder isn't covered, it does recess into the platform and there are two grabhandles to assist climbing into the boat.
There are several engine packages that would work well. Our test boat came with MerCruiser's standard 4.3L 190-hp V-6, which turned out to be more than ample power given the rough water we encountered. Fortunately for us, the Q4 Sport felt rigid,thanks in part to its new fibreglass stringer system.
The hull carries nicely in choppy water. Since the waves were ranging from three to six feet that day, we also took the opportunity to accelerate up and over some major rollers. As expected, the hull handled well and rode comfortably when the throttle was pulled back. Keep the hammer down and you will take some hits, just as you would with any boat that is pushed hard in ugly water.
The Q4 topped out at 52.4 mph, trimmed approximately three degrees positive. Accelerating from 20 to 40 mph in under five seconds is a thrill, and the boat actually planed in just 2.3 seconds and hit 43 mph in 10 seconds.
The hull hangs in well through the turns, and doesn't slide unless overly trimmed. Even then, the prop didn't ventilate.The steering felt solid, and the boat tracked straight at speed.
Influenced by the Tracker Marine Group,Tahoe's Q4 Sport is packaged with a Trailstar steel trailer, which benefits from a new GalvaShield coating to protect it from corrosion. While the Q4 Sport is clearly a well-positioned recreational sportboat, a fish package can be added to satisfy anglers.
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